Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fidelity and Healthy Sexuality in Marriage

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"Thou shalt love thy [spouse] with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her [or him] and none else."
-Doctrine and Covenants 42:22
Link: Cleave to One Another
This week's post is going to cover both marital fidelity and healthy sexuality within marriage. Fidelity in marriage is defined as loyalty and support to one's spouse along with sexual, and might I say EMOTIONAL, faithfulness. It is a trait that is essential to the trust and emotional health of the couple in the marriage relationship.

Of course, being married doesn't mean that you can't have friends, even friends of the opposite sex. However, boundaries need to be taken into consideration so that a friendship outside of the marriage does not turn into something more than what is healthy for your marriage (Matheson, 2009, p. 3).Your spouse needs to be first in your heart amongst your earthly relationships.

Infidelity is not limited to only the physical act of sexual intimacy outside of the marriage. There is also emotional infidelity. Emotional infidelity is the act of giving way to romantic or sexual thoughts and emotions being focused on someone other than your spouse. It is a type of infidelity that doesn't usually happen suddenly, but gradually. It may come on so subtly that the person or people involved with it do not perceive any wrongdoing (p.3).

Questions to consider to honestly assess whether or not you are being unfaithful to your spouse by way of a friendship:
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  • Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than to your spouse?
  • "Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you are at home?"
  •  "Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend, even when work doesn't require you to be together?"
  • "Do you email and text your friend when you're not together?"
  • Do you tell your spouse about these messages? Do you feel a need to keep these messages a secret from your husband/wife?
  • Do you spend more time and energy on your friendship than on your relationship with your spouse?
  • "Do you compare your spouse to your friend?"
  • "Would you feel uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?"
  • Do you feel this friendship to be "special"?
(List taken from Matheson, 2009, p. 9-10).
Link: Clean Conscience


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If you have answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you may need to make some changes in your life. Kenneth W. Matheson, who is a professor of social work at Brigham Young University, recommends considering "an open and honest conversation with your spouse--being sure to focus on yourself and not the other person." In other words, take resposibility for your actions and let your spouse know that you will no longer be nurturing that friendship. For overcoming addiction to the "friend", you may need to seek counsel from a spiritual leader and/or a professional counselor (p.10).

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Another way to be emotionally unfaithful is by using pornography. Pornography is a serious addiction that can have an impact on every facet of the addict's life. It has a great potential to destroy
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relationships, which will further isolate the addict and create an even bigger need for pornography use. 

I once attended a fireside where Dan Oaks, a counselor who specialized in overcoming sexual addiction in San Tan Valley, Arizona, talked about how the sexual need in human beings stems from the need to be bonded to another person. We are born with the need to feel bonded to others. As children, we bond to our parents and siblings through hugs, kisses, and spending time together. As we age and the sex drive kicks in, feelings of loneliness and isolation can make this new appetite burn with an intense heat in order for the person to seek out a meaningful bond. The healthiest way to feed this urge
Link: Teen Talking to Parent

 when you are a teenager or not married is to talk to someone with whom you share a bond (typically a parent) to help alleviate the loneliness, which will quell the sexual feelings. What will not help are pornography and masturbation because they will not fill the innate need to have a bond. Rather, it only stimulates the hormones and pleasure centers of the brain without providing any feelings of satisfation because there is no bond. To understand more about the effects of pronography on the brain, the body, and your relationships, see fightthenewdrug.org.

Dan Oaks also said that having sexual trysts with somone to whom you are not married will also not fill this need for a bond because you do not share a deep, emotional bond with them. Your brain will say, "Well, that was nice, but that was not what I was looking for."
Link: Marriage's Beautiful Garden
However, when you marry someone to whom you are emotionally bonded, your mind and your body react differently to the act of sexual intimacy. The act iself becomes a sacred bonding act between spouses with the potential to create life (Please don't misunderstand. This potential to procreate children is there whether or not you are married). Keeping your emotional and physical loyalties healthy within your marriage relationship will help keep this sacrement in your marriage deeply satisfying.


To have  a healthy sexual relationship within your marriage, you need to have healthy attitudes toward it. Often in religious circles, children are taught that intamacy is "icky" or a "necessary evil" for
the procreation of children (Barlow, Sep. 1986, p. 1). President Spencer
Link: Spencer W. Kimball
W. Kimball, former leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said, "The Bible celebrates sex and its proper use, presenting it as God-created, God-ordained, God-blessed. It makes plain that God himself implanted the physical magnetism between the sexes for two reasons: for the propegation of the human race, and for the expression of that kind of love between man and wife that makes for true oneness. His commandment to the first man and woman to be 'one flesh' was as important as his command to 'be fruitful and multiply'." (Quoting Billy Graham) (p. 1).


"Recent research indicates that the capacity for sexual response in women is just as great, if not greater, than that of males." 
          -Brent A. Barlow

What healthy sexuality in a marriage is NOT:
  • Only for the procreation of children.
  • Only for physical gratification (the couple becomes obsessed with pleasure so much that they neglect nurturing their love for one another).
  • A tool to use as a weapon or a bargaining tool.
(List taken from Barlow, Sep. 1986, p. 2).
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How to nurture sexuality in marriage:
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  • Talk about sex with your spouse (Brotherson, 2003, p. 2).
  • Give yourself permission to "seek out from the best books"  information in regard to how human sexuality works (p. 3). For suggestions, a list of Christian-based books that treats sexuality with dignity is provided at the end of this article.
  • Overcome your negative feelings toward sex (p. 4). If you are a victim of sexual crime, you may need professional help to
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    overcome this. I, personally, had a significant struggle with this step due to sexual crimes committed against me as a child. Going to a professional counselor who was faith-based, encouraged my marital relationship to grow, and was sensitive to my needs to help me overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and sexual dysfunction was worth every penny. If you decide to go, bring your spouse along with you as often as you can. They will need to understand how to help you while you heal. Also, please understand that this is not going to be a quick fix. It will take time, but, as I said, it's worth it. I'm much more at ease with the sexual side of my relationship with my husband, and I am comfortable with the idea that I am a sexual being who is allowed to intimately bond with her husband and enjoy it.
  • Think of your sexual relationship as a stewardship. In a stewardship, you give time and attention to a duty you want to see grow into something special (p. 5).
  • View it, as Harold B. Lee puts it, as a "holy impulse for a holy
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    purpose" (p. 5). God gave us these feelings to help us to nurture our marital bond while also making it possible for children to be born into the relationship.
A note to the husband: in order for your wife to be in a mood to open herself up to you, she needs small gestures from you to make her feel accepted and attractive to you such as:
  1. A hug and a kiss goodbye before you part ways for work, and then doing that again when reunited at the end of the day.
  2. Spending time together often throughout the week.
  3. Care about the small struggles she has in her life.
  4. Help around the house, especially when she has had a hard day at work (this includes the job of being a stay-at-home mother) or isn't feeling well.
  5. Compliment her and tell her you love her.
  6. Give small gifts.
  7. Sit next to her and hold her hand. 
  • A note to the wife: realize that your husband has needs other than just sexual. Sex actually isn't his main focus in life. He has hopes, dreams, interests, and aspirations. He needs you to know and understand these things. Also:
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  1. Find time to spend with him.
  2. Allow him to be romatic with you (hugs, kisses, holding hands, receiving gifts, etc.).
  3. Express what you appreciate about him and the things he does (no sarcasm, please).
  4. Initiate affection. 
  5. Try the things listed above in the note to the husband. They work for him too (Barlow,  Sep. 1986, p. 3-4).

The sexual aspect of your realtionship is special and needed. The trust you share with one another needs to be more important than any feelings of infidelity. Enjoy your bond, and remember to nurture all aspects of your relationship as we have discussed in previous articles.

List of Christian-based books on healthy sexuality:
Link: Keep Marriage Pure

  • You and Your Marriage by Hugh B. Brown
  • The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye 
  • Between Husband and Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy by Stephen Lamb and Douglas Brinley
  • Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat
  • The Sex-Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis
  • Purity and Passion by Wendy Watson
  • Couple Sexual Awareness or Sexual Awareness, Couple Sexuality for the Twenty-first Century or Rekindling Desire, or A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages all by Barry and Emily McCarthy
(List taken from Brotherson, 2003, p. 2&8.)
Link: https://byloverefined.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/548978_3671475279882_1372657641_n.jpg?w=940

References:

Brotherson, S.E. (2003). "Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage." Meridian Magazine, www.meridianmagazine.com
 
Barlow, B. A. (Sep 1986). "They twain shall be one: Thoughts on intimacy in marriage." Ensign, Sept 1986, 49.

Matheson, K.W. (Sep 2009). "Fidelity in marriage: It's more than you think." Ensign, Sept. 2009, 13-16.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Overcoming Perpetual Problems in Gridlock

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Link: Heart Stomped On
Last week, we talked about the difference between solvable and perpetual conflicts. Solvable conflicts are those issues in marriage that are relatively easy for a couple to reach a compromise. Perpetual problems are those conflicts that have gotten to the point where the couple has started ascribing the issues in those conflicts with personality flaws in one another ("She's so stubborn!" "He's such a jerk!"). We also discussed how to overcome perpetual problems.

This week, we are talking about those conflicts that are at the next level of perpetual conflict. According to Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver in their book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, this level is known as Gridlock. Gridlock is a conflict that neither partner is able to understand or respect the other's stance on the issue, making each party become more and more entrenched in their position (Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 236). It becomes a test of wills or a struggle for power in the relationship.
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How do you know if you have reached gridlock? Here are Gottman and Silver's four characteristics of this issue:

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  1. You have argued over the same issue again and again with no resolution.
  2. Neither of you is able to approach the subject with any level of humor, empathy, or affection.
  3. The issue makes each of you feel further and further apart as time goes on.
  4. Compromise seems impossible because you are afraid that by giving in, even by an inch, would mean that you are giving up something priceless or giving up power in the relationship.
(List taken from p. 237).

Link: Important Key
The key to coping with gridlock is to avoid allowing your differences to escalate to this point by practicing the principles we have already discussed in this blog such as nurturing fondness and admiration of your spouse, turning toward one another, and allowing your partner to influence you (p. 237). However, since most couples don't start looking for help until they have reached a stage of crisis, you are most likely already having problems with one or more gridlock issues if you are reading this. Fortunately, there is hope. Once you have both mastered what it takes to overcome gridlock, the problem will be more like a pesky allergy or a bad back--not likely to go away, but manageable with the right treatment (p. 237).


Usually, gridlock is a result of the dreams (life aspirations) of both parties not being realized or respected (p. 238). These are usually dreams that are deeply rooted in childhood such as the husband wanting to make lots of money because he grew up poor and knew what it was like living in uncertain circumstances. The deepest root of that is that he equates money with security and a sense of freedom. Other deep roots of dreams might be things like:
  • Feeling at peace.
  • Self-exploration ("I want to know who I am.")
  • Adventure
  • Spiritual journey
  • Justice
  • Honor
  • Consistency with past values
  • Healing
  • Having a sense of power
  • Seeking forgiveness
  • Regaining a part of self that was lost
  • Feeling productive
  • Setting priorities
  • Atoning
(This partial list is taken from p. 238-239).
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Step 1 to Overcoming Gridlock: Explore Each Other's Dreams

A very important part of overcoming gridlock is becoming aware of one another's dreams and considering helping each other to realize them. Happy couples understand this to be a priority of the marriage (p. 239). These dreams can be concrete such as wanting a specific type of dream home, or they can be intangible such as wanting to feel safe (p. 240). What is important is allowing your spouse to explain their dreams concerning your gridlock subject and why it's so important to them while withholding judgment (p. 243). Think of this exercise as a fact-finding mission. You are there to observe and to learn in order to gain a greater understanding and respect for your spouse's viewpoints, not to be a spy in order to gain intelligence to undermine or subvert your spouse's most cherished dreams. You wouldn't like it if someone did that to you, so don't do it to your spouse.
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Ideas of questions to help you with fact-finding:
  •  "What do you believe about this issue? Do you have some values, ethical ideas, or other beliefs that relate to your position on this issue?"
  • "What are all the things you feel about this issue?"
  • "What does your position mean to you?"
  • "What is your ideal dream here."
  • "Tell me the story of your dream. Does it relate to your history or childhood in some way? I would like to understand what it means to you."
  • "What do you want? What do you need? If I could wave a magic wand and you'd have exactly what you needed, what would that look like?"
(List taken from p. 251).


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Dr. Gottman says, "If you can, tell your partner that you support his/her dream. This doesn't necessarily mean that you believe that the dream can or should be realized" (p. 252). The three levels of honoring your spouse's dreams that will benefit your marriage:
  1. Express understanding of the dream and be interested in learning more about it. 
  2. Actively enable the dream.
  3. Become a part of the dream.
(List taken from p. 252).

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During your turn to explain your dreams about the issue at hand, make sure to keep your start-up soft and make "I" statements to communicate feelings and needs. Do NOT use this as an opportunity to criticize or argue with your partner (p. 251). Your goal is to present the facts as though you were communicating them with a stranger. You are trying to help the other person to understand who you are, not who you want the other person to be.
Note: It is normal for one of your spouse's dreams to seemingly clash with your own. However, you still need to hear each other out (p. 250).

Step 2 in Overcoming Gridlock: Soothe
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Be aware of flooding. Use soothing techniques discussed previously (remember "small circles"?) to help your spouse feel comforted and comfortable with you when you sense stress creeping into the conversation. You can also use repair techniques (p. 253).

Step 3 in Overcoming Gridlock: Reach a Temporary Compromise (the Two-Circle Method)

Make a diagram that looks like this:
Link: Two-Circle Venn Diagram


List aspects of your dreams in one circle. The parts that you feel are non-negotiable are in the large part of your circle. The portions you feel you can be flexible with are put in the overlapping section of the circles. Your partner then fills the other side of the circle in the same manner. In order to not make your non-negotiable portions look less imposing or disrespectful, write them much smaller than the portions that you are willing to be flexible with. Writing your flexible positions larger will send the message that you are wanting to negotiate, not dominate (p. 254). Proceed with making your temporary compromise from here.

Step 4 in Overcoming Gridlock: Say "Thank You"

It may have been very hard for you both to reach this point. Make sure to acknowledge this effort of both of your parts to work together. Gratitude is a great relationship builder (p. 259). I know that I feel very appreciative when I receive gratitude after trying something really hard. It makes me feel less incompetent. It also makes me more likely to repeat my efforts or even to go the extra mile. My husband also thrives on gratitude. His primary love language is works of service (see The 5 Love Languages website for more information about love languages). When he does something for me to let me know that he loves me, a "Thank you" will make him feel 10 feet tall.

If you would benefit from a visual example of how a couple can overcome gridlock, here is a video of a couple who went to John Gottman's "Love Lab" to learn to overcome their gridlock issue. Watch for the steps we have gone over in today's article:



One more thing you need to do to help you overcome gridlock--or, indeed, any marital strife--is to seek to have a heart filled with charity toward your spouse:
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You must earnestly seek this godly trait and pray for it in order to acquire it (Goddard, 2009, p. 122). Allowing it to permeate your heart will open your eyes to a new life that is glorious, even with its limitations.
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In order for your marriage to flourish, you both have to be committed to clearing out the negativity in your relationship. Make an agreement that negativity is your common enemy that you will fight tooth and nail to overcome. Understand now that you and your spouse will make mistakes, so commit yourself to learn to forgive not only your spouse but also yourself for being human (Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 282). Remember to voice sincere gratitude. Give each other at least one heartfelt comment of gratitude per day. If you can do more, go for it (p. 283). Lastly, remember to pray to God to acquire charity toward your spouse that you may see them as He sees them--precious, full of divine portential and gifts, and worthy of your love.
Link: We did something awesome! Way to go!


References:

Goddard, H.W., PhD (2009). Drawing heaven into your marriage. Cedar Hills, UT: Joymap Publishing.

Gottman, J.M., PhD, & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Harmony Books.
 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Understanding Conflict within Marriage


Photo Link: http://gracepointwellness.org/images/root/garycouplefightingmegaphones_67480532.jpg


"Our capacity to love a spouse deeply and our ability to experience great JOY in marriage are [in proportion] with the degree to which we are willing to suffer and hurt, to labor and toil, and to persevere through moments of unhappiness, stress, disappointment, and tests of our patience and love for our partners."

-Kent Brooks of the BYU faculty of Church History and Doctrine
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 Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver reveal in their book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the nature of marital conflict. Basically, there are two types of conflict: perpetual and solvable. Perpetual conflicts are those squabbles that seem to never get resolved such as: she wants a baby right away, but he feels he is not ready yet, and he wants decisions made quickly, but she's more methodical and doesn't like to be rushed. These fights tend to have underlying issues such as desired marital expectations, lack of trust, unfulfilled dreams, or selfishness. Sixty-nine percent of all marital conflict falls into this category (Gottman & Silver, 2013 p. 138). 

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Solvable problems are the situational problems that do not have any underlying conflicts that fuel it. Examples of this might be that a couple is having an issue trying to figure out how to settle into a morning routine or one of you just tracked mud on the clean, white carpet and the other spouse is upset over it. The process of figuring out conflicts like these can take a while and even lead to hurt feelings, but the issue does not yet have the underlying issues that are part of perpetual conflicts. However, these arguments can turn into perpetual conflicts if the couple does not have the tools they need to resolve these conflicts peaceably.

"Despite what many therapists will tell you, you don't have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive."

-Dr. John Gottman

Perpetual problems can result in what Gottman and Silver call gridlock. Gridlock is a serious form of perpetual conflict. These are its characteristics:
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  • The conflict makes your feel rejected by your spouse.
  • You can't make headway on the argument no matter how many times you discuss it.
  • You become subbornly firm in your stances and will not give way for compromise.
  • Feelings get hurt worse after each time the subject is brought up.
  • You express no humor or affection during the fight.
  • You vilify each other.
  • You eventually disengage from your spouse on an emotional level.
(list from Gottman & Silver, 2013. P. 141)
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Some people may think that avoiding such issues will allow the conflict to burn itself out. However, conflicts rarely resolve themselves in such a manner--if ever. Gottman and Silver say that:
"Avoiding conflict leads to emotional disengagement. The couple's trust in each other declines as they become increasingly trapped in the negativity . . . [and they] are on the course toward leading parallel lives and inevitable loneliness--the death knell for any marriage" (p. 140). 
Fortunately, there are ways to get out of gridlock, but we will go over those steps in a future post. You simply need to know the difference between a regular perpetual problem and gridlock for now.  As for attitudes you need to handle both solvable and perpetual conflict, Gottman and Silver suggest the following:
Photo Link: Sunshine and Sparkles Took the Day off
  • Realize that negative emotions are important. "Negative emotions hold important information about how to love each other better" (p. 157). By using the tools we have already discussed in prior posts in this blog will help you to know how to express negative emotions without hurting your spouse or being offended by their negative emotions.
  • Accept that neither partner is absolutely in the right when it comes to marital conflict. There are only perceptions and intentions. If you accept this as a truth, you will be more
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    willing to listen to one another and, hopefully, be able to figure out how to compromise in a way that is helpful to both of you.
  • Accept and respect your
    Photo link: Who's Awesome? You're Awesome!
    spouse.
    "When people feel criticized, disliked, or unappreciated, they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege, and they [become inflexible]" (p. 157). Remember, never criticize your spouse's personality. Dr. H. Wallace Goddard mentions that we should try to focus on treating our spouse (indeed, anyone) as though they are your honored guests (Goddard, 2009, p. 161). Would you ever consider yelling at a guest leaving your home who forgot their umbrella that they were inconsiderate dolts who must expect you to remember everything for them because they are so inconsiderate? Of course not! So try to give your spouse the same kind of consideration you would give a guest you actually
    Photo Link: So Cute!
     want to speak to you again.
  • Remember to focus on the things you admire or adore in your spouse. This will help you to keep from becoming critical of your spouse.
(List taken from Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 157-159).

Dr. H. Wallace Goddard mentioned another attitude he adopted that is helpful to have in a marriage, especially during conflict. He decided to take the view that his marital covenants were a promise not only between his wife, Nancy, and God that they would be together forever, but that he promised God that he would always look for the good in Nancy. He promised God that no sacrifice would be too great to be forgiving of his spouse. He promised God that he "would be His partner in protecting, blessing, comforting, and saving Nancy's precious soul [emphasis added]." He takes the view that there is nothing he "will ever do that will be more important than blessing [his] covenant partner" (Goddard, 2009, p. 105).
Photo Link: We're in this together!

If you are having diffuculties with any of these attitudes, it may be because you are having issues with forgiving your spouse for past differences. When you learn to forgive, it relieves both you and your spouse of the burden of bitterness (Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 159).
Photo Link: https://agnellusmirror.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/sunday-19th.jpg


When we consecrate our lives to building up our marriage, we are willing to hold nothing that is good from our spouse or from others, even forgiveness. We are also "willing to minister to a mixed-up spouse. We are willing to love a failing partner. We bless those that belittle us. We pray for those who have despitefully used us. Please note that no partner should have to tolerate physical violence! [emphasis added]" (Goddard, 2009, p. 105). If there is any abuse in your marriage, this is a problem that absolutley needs intervention from a trained therapist. Do not delay.
Photo Link: http://www.crrcs.com/Assets/stopdv.png


For typical marital conflicts, here are a few tools to help a disagreement to be a discussion and not a power struggle:
  • Soften your start-up. Ladies tend to have a trouble with this
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    one (myself included). When introducing a discussion that have strong negative feelings attached to it, try to focus the your conversation start up on your own feelings and acknowledge a shared responsibility for whatever the situation is. Gottman and Silver say that a soft start-up has four parts: "(1) 'I share some responsibility for this . . .' (2) 'Here's how I feel . . . (3) about a specific situation and . . . (4) here's what I need . . .' (positive need, not what you don't need)" (Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 165). This makes sure that you are pointing the finger at yourself and comes across as a complaint or a plea for a favor, which is easier for our men to handle.
  • Learn to make and receive repair attempts. Take breaks
    Link: Stop, Go Back, and Try Again
    when you feel any anger that might be threatening to cause you to shut down and stonewall (Gottman points out that if your heart rate rises above 100 beats per minute, your'e too angry to discuss things rationally, so take a break for at least 20 minutes to calm down). Accept apologies from your spouse and make apologies to your spouse (no sarcasm, please). Admit wrongdoing. Maintain a sense of humor. Say, "Maybe we should talk to each other in a different way." Be affectionate, even when disagreeing. Use soft teasing (the kind that actually illicits a laugh and does not belittle or demean anyone).  Asking for a do-over; "Can we try this whole conversation again from the beginning?" Lastly, (I cannot emphasize this one enough) express appreciation. It is a confidence-builder. Gottman and Silver made a list of phrases that you can use for making repair attempts. They suggest that you make a copy of the list to hang on your fridge. Practice these phrases until they feel natural to you (p. 175). Link: Gottman Repair Checklist
  • Sooth yourself and each other. Remember the 20 minute break I mentioned before?
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    Gottman suggests using deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to help you relax when feeling agitated. To sooth your spouse, you can offer a back rub or to talk them through the deep breathing and relaxation techniques.  
  • Compromise. First, find common ground by allowing each spouse to consider solutions to the problem. Once you are both ready with your solutions, allow one partner to discuss their ideas without interruption, then allow the other partner the same courtesy. Find what solutions you both came up with that are similar and discuss them. You can work your way outward from there.
(list taken from Gottman & Silver, 2013, p. 162-187).


Taking time to learn how to argue constructively will be a blessing to you, to your spouse, and to your marriage. Practice the techniques you see here. Don't forget to print out the Gottman Repair Checklist and put it on the fridge to help you learn to use and identify repair attempts made during your arguments. They will help to diffuse any anger that might be building up, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compromise effectively. Lastly, remember to be forgiving. Your spouse may not be perfect, but neither are you, but that doesn't have to come between you. Mercy is a wonderful healer as is a sense of gratitude. They are your balms of Gilead. Use them well.

Link: https://trans4mind.com/quotes/magnificence.jpg



References:

Goddard, H.W., PhD (2009). Drawing heaven into your marriage. Cedar Hills, UT: Joymap Publishing.

Gottman, J.M., PhD, & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Harmony Books.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Perils of Pride in Marriage

Link: https://jeffclawson.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/peril-of-pride-the_t_nv.jpg

"God has graciously given each of us an early warning system. When we are feeling irked, annoyed, or irritated with our spouse, we have our backs turned toward heaven. We are guilty of Pride."

-H. Wallace Goddard, Ph. D.
This week, we will be discussing pride and its effects on a marriage. Pride, according to Ezra Taft Benson, is enmity--to God, to a spouse, or to any of our fellow men (Benson, 1985, p. 2). The elements of pride are selfishness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, jealousy, or haughtiness (p. 1). In a marriage, it can look like this:

Ignore spouse, or give spouse the "cold shoulder"
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Impatient with impatience
• Caught up in who's right and who's wrong
Blaming, defensiveness
Attack, counterattack
• Score keeping, with intentions of noting who is winning or losing
Refusal to apologize first
• Holding the other hostage by refusing to forgive
Proving superiority by bringing up spouse's faults
• The "silent treatment"
Sharing spouse's weaknesses with others
Link: backbiting/creating alliances against spouse
Intentionally trying to create jealousies in spouse
• Get others to create an alliance with you against your spouse
• Putting words in spouse's mouth to manipulate them
• Displaying an attitude of entitlement in the marriage
Link: Stubborn
Stubbornness or unwillingness to change
Selfishness; thinking only of your needs
Unwillingness to learn from spouse
Fault finding
Withholding love and affection 

Link: http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-we-live-in-a-world-where-finding-fault-in-others-seems-to-be-the-favorite-blood-sport-henry-b-eyring-33-6-0685.jpg
 Pride has no place in a healthy marriage. It is the root cause of Gottman and Silver's "four horsemen of the apocalypse": criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Therefore, pride is the root cause of marital discord and destruction.

The opposite of pride is humility. Humility requires that we let go of "My will be done." and exchange it for "God's will be done." Humility gives us the ability to repent of our own weaknesses while helping us to be patient enough to allow Heavenly Father to work on your spouse's weaknesses in His perfect time. It keeps us from trying to change our spouses ourselves, which doesn't work too good. In fact, it could lead to abuse, so don't do it. Lastly, humility teaches us to stop finding fault in our spouse to the point where you drive out your love for them. After all, "we rarely know our partner's heart and God's purposes" (Goddard, 2009, p. 81). What then qualifies us to nitpick at each other's faults?

Link: Compassion and Tolerance Quote
 A great way to overcome pride in your marital relationship is to learn to let your spouse influence you. Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver wrote an entire chapter on this subject in their book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It is their fourth principle for building strong marriages.

Link: lift kit=greater ground clearance for off-road driving
What this "allowing your spouse to influence you" principle asks of each partner in a marriage is to humble themselves enough to look to one another in their decision-making for the benefit of the marriage and the family. For instance, let's say that a man by the name of Sam is looking at buying a lift kit for his Jeep. He found a good deal on a package and seemed ready to make a purchase. However, Sam suddenly says to the seller that he needs to discuss the price of the lift kit with his wife before making a purchase. The seller, confused, asks if Sam always asks his wife for permission to make a purchase for a vehicle. "Yes." Sam replied, "We avoid a lot of arguments that way and we are both happier with the outcome of the decision. It's a win-win!"

Link: couple discussing plans together
In Gottman's 9-year study of 130 newlyweds, he discovered that a man who allowed his wife to influence him was 81% less likely to divorce than if he were to engage in a power struggle with her (p. 116). This does not mean that a man (or woman) should give up all of his or her personal power and turn over all decision-making power to the other spouse, nor does it mean that he or she can't voice preferences for anything. This would be unhealthy. Indeed, it would be bondage. Rather, it means that a man and his wife are willing to humble themselves enough to find common ground when having a disagreement and seek to reach a consensus instead of insisting that either of them get their own way.

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Gottman also discovered in his studies of married couples having a dispute that men tend to treat an argument like a competition and will try to win it. The man will escalate the argument by trotting out the "four horsemen" in order to try to gain a tactical advantage. This ability to strategize and look for advantages over others is a good asset to have when in the workplace, but not so great in a marriage. What a man using such tactics in a martial dispute may not realize is that by trying to win an argument with his wife, he is creating a greater level of instability in the relationship because of the level of disrespect he is showing her. One of the side-effects of this is often depression in the wife (p.117-118). 

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As for the tactics a woman will use, Gottman noticed that a woman will try to either tone down an argument with repair attempts more often than the man, or she will match the man's energy output (p. 118). In other words, if the husband escalates the argument, it is likely that the wife will too, making matters worse. Continuing to argue in such a way is bad for the health of the relationship. 

"The wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic. This increases the odds their marriage will survive."
 -Dr. John Gottman & Nan Silver

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However, whether you are a man or a woman, try to use and pick up on repair attempts as often as possible if you find a discussion beginning to deteriorate into an argument. You can:
  • Use compliments.
  • Use friendly humor. 
  • Show concern for the other spouse. 
  • Sincerely ask what the other person thinks about something.
  • Ask for clarity (Did you mean this idea, or am I misunderstanding you?)
If you find yourself feeling angry, it is not out of the question to ask your spouse for a five-minute or longer break in the discussion to cool off. Anger will sorely tempt you to trot out those destructive "four horsemen".
Link: Now THAT'S a meat sandwich!
"If you don't like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won't mind."
-Irving Becker

 There are a few quizzes in Gottman and Silver's book (see reference list) on pages 128-136 that can help you assess your level of how much you accept influence from your spouse. It also has a couple of exercises to help teach you how to compromise and when to yield in an argument. For instance, last evening my husband and I played a game of "If you were stranded on a desert island, what 10 items from this list would you choose to help you survive?" We came up with our own lists first, then we collaborated to create a third list. This tested our ability to be able to reach a consensus when making decisions together. I am happy to say that it went quite well. Neither of us got angry and we both patiently heard and considered each other's perspectives to reach a consensus. 

Link: Up high, Dude! We got this!

The last thing I will recommend for this week is to look for times when you get irritated with your spouse. Irritation is a "vital function of alerting us that something we are doing (or feeling, or saying) is [resulting from personal pride]" (Goddard, 2009, p. 83). Also, here is a list of ways  to help you overcome pride as recommended by Ezra Taft Benson: 
  • Conquer enmity toward your spouse by esteeming them as yourself; lift them as high or higher than you are.
  • Receive counsel and chastisement.
  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness from your spouse for your wrongdoings.
  • Serve your spouse 
  • If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and hold a temple recommend, attend the temple more frequently. If you are LDS and do not have a recommend, make the necessary changes in your life to get one. It's well worth it. If you are not LDS at all, seek ways to feel closer to your God or to nature by using prayer, meditation, or other mindfulness techniques.
  • Seek to change your attitude (repent).
  • Submit your will to God, who knows the big picture and also knows the best ways for you to become stronger and happier.
(Benson, 1989, p. 4).


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References:


Benson, E.T. (May 1989). Beware of pride. Ensign, May 1989, 4. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1989/05/beware-of-pride?lang=eng&_r=1

Goddard, H.W., PhD (2009). Drawing heaven into your marriage. Cedar Hills, UT: Joymap Publishing.

Gottman, J.M., PhD, & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Harmony Books.